“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.
The more I learn about the Pharisees, the more I realize I could easily have been one of them, which makes Nicodemus all the more poignant for me. He starts out on an upbeat note:
Jesus, however, far from accepting the compliment tosses him a paradox:
Now, I’m willing to believe the author compressed the dialogue a bit, removing pleasantries and such. Still, no matter how you slice it that is pretty shocking statement, and Nicodemus is duly shocked:
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
A fair question, to which Jesus seems to give an even more cryptic answer:
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
What exactly is Jesus playing at here? I suspect he’s “raising the stakes” — Nicodemus was happy to accept Jesus as prophetically inspired, so Jesus is paying him the compliment of taking him at his word! “Okay, if you believe I’m from God, then let me tell you what God really wants.” Even if you can’t swallow it:
Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
He then proceeds to put Nicodemus in his place, which we must presume was what he needed:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, [even] the Son of man which is in heaven.
See, this is why I identify so much with the Pharisees: they are so sure of what they know, they have a hard time coping with experiential reality. 🙂 They like the idea of deep spiritual knowledge, but often lose heart when confronted with revelation that disturbs their complacent conformity. Even if that is the source of life:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Y’know, I don’t think I ever noticed that the powerful words of John 3:16 were actually a parallel to John 3:15:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Whether a continuation of Jesus words or a commentary by John, it is a powerful summation of the scandalous, redemptive nature of Jesus ministry.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
For though Jesus himself was not condemning, he forces a choice which can condemn us:
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this very topic, given all my discussions about belief. To me, it really does come down to the character (name) of Jesus, and whether we believe that is the character of the God who created the universe. That is, either we acknowledge that a) there is goodness in the universe and b) we must submit it, or else we choose to live in darkness:
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
And even the most religious among us is not immune to hiding in the dark.
God, you know the darkness of my heart, and my secret follies. Father, forgive me for chasing shadows and running from the light. Lord, help me to see Jesus lifted up, and come to him and be safe. Teach me to trust in you and your goodness, that I may experience the fullness of eternal life. I ask all this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title seems like it ought to be a movie or a song or something, but I got nothing.